America’s Newest Stealth Destroyer Has The Greatest Namesake To Live Up To

Medal of Honor recipient Michael Monsoor gave his life in an instant to save his comrades and now the Navy has a ship to honor his sacrifice.

byTyler Rogoway|
U.S. Homeland photo

On January 26th, 2019, the Zumwalt class destroyer

USS Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001) will be commissioned into Navy service. Like most fighting ships, its namesake will be woven into its unique culture. But DDG-1001's name will be an especially powerful beacon of bravery and selflessness, and above all else, an example of commitment to one's fellow teammates. 

Michael Monsoor's life story is as complex as anyone's, but how he ended up being posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor really wasn't. Before becoming a Navy SEAL, he was a kid from Long Beach that battled asthma. He overcame his condition by training in the pool and became an accomplished athlete, playing varsity football in High School. He enlisted in the Navy in 2001, but didn't end up at Basic Underwater Demolition School (BUDS) until 2004. He graduated the grueling SEAL indoctrination program at the top of his class. 

As part of SEAL Team Three, he spent a lot of time in Iraq, as so many SEALs did. During this time there his penchant for bravery became abundantly clear even while operating among other SEAL legends like Chris Kyle. He earned the Silver Star for rescuing a wounded comrade by running out into a street-turned shooting gallery to save him. But his Medal of Honor came via a far greater sacrifice that occurred months later. 

His official Medal Of Honor citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as automatic weapons gunner for Naval Special Warfare Task Group Arabian Peninsula, in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 29 September 2006. As a member of a combined SEAL and Iraqi Army Sniper Overwatch Element, tasked with providing early warning and stand-off protection from a rooftop in an insurgent held sector of Ar Ramadi, Iraq, Petty Officer Monsoor distinguished himself by his exceptional bravery in the face of grave danger. In the early morning, insurgents prepared to execute a coordinated attack by reconnoitering the area around the element's position. Element snipers thwarted the enemy's initial attempt by eliminating two insurgents. The enemy continued to assault the element, engaging them with a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire. As enemy activity increased, Petty Officer Monsoor took position with his machine gun between two teammates on an outcropping of the roof. While the SEALs vigilantly watched for enemy activity, an insurgent threw a hand grenade from an unseen location, which bounced off Petty Officer Monsoor's chest and landed in front of him. Although only he could have escaped the blast, Petty Officer Monsoor chose instead to protect his teammates. Instantly and without regard for his own safety, he threw himself onto the grenade to absorb the force of the explosion with his body, saving the lives of his two teammates. By his undaunted courage, fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of certain death, Petty Officer Monsoor gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Just think about Michael's act for one second. In the middle of a firefight, on a rooftop, a grenade suddenly knocks on your chest, as if to introduce itself, and then lands at your feet. Every human instinct is to flee the weapon's lethal blast, yet somehow, this man made the instant calculation that he could and should save his friends by sacrificing himself. The payoff is so non-instinctive—you won't even be there to realize it—and the act is so final that's it's nearly incomprehensible how Monsoor could have come to such a snap and seemingly superhuman verdict. But somehow he did. 

Monsoor was absolutely beloved by his teammates and those he touched in his life. He had so much to live for, yet he instantly chose to sacrifice himself so that his friends could continue on. 

Sally Monsoor, in blue, sponsor of the future USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001), holds the christening bottle alongside the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Scott Smith, her matrons of honor and Fred Harris, president of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, which built the Zumwalt class destroyer named in honor of Medal of Honor recipient Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor., USN

There really is no higher example of someone who gave more and who led by example than DDG-1001's namesake, and that incredible spirit of heroism is what the crew of the USS Michael Monsoor will be called upon to live up to on a daily basis. A tall but exhilarating order for sailors young and old that will walk her decks and call her bunks home. 

The ship has been fittingly assigned the motto "I will defend" as that is exactly what Monsoor did with his last breath.

It's very easy to assume that the United States military gets its advantage through the technology it brings to the fight, but this is only a piece of the truth. It's the soldier, airman, marine, and sailor and the long and proud legacy of heroism, love of country, and above all else, dedication to those they serve alongside that merges with that technology to provide the United States with an unparalleled fighting force. 

So on this Memorial Day, we want to thank Michael Monsoor and all the other heroes who have died in defense of our nation, many of which will never get a ship named after them or widespread recognition. But we also want to thank those who are still living, that possess many forms of bravery, and go out every day with great risk in one hand and love of their comrades and country in the other and do the nation's hardest work so that we can enjoy the freedoms our constitution guarantees. 

You are loved.

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